Friday, May 19, 2017

Growing anyway...

Something struck me today, as I worked outside in my beautiful yard.  Well, a couple of things actually, because when I ever have been known to make just one point?

 Things we plant in faith and then forget about... aren't actually forgotten.  Sometimes they simply bloom later than we expect, and completely surprise us in our forgetfulness.  I planted several peony plants over the past years.  I have moved so many things around as I've worked, to create harmony in our flower beds.  This year I noticed that not one, but two, brand new peony plants emerged in a previously rather bare space.  I think I planted one last year but it never showed itself, and I assumed it was dead... but it wasn't!  It spoke to me, because I've been waiting for specific things that have been planted in faith, for what seems like, too long...  It feels like the wait has taken forever, and sometimes I even forget what or why I'm waiting for it.  But God doesn't.  And He doesn't abandon me up here on the surface, even while He is busy cultivating private spaces in my life and heart that haven't bloomed yet.  He is still working in me deeply, preparing just the right season to bring them about.  

Things often still grow where we don't plant them.  Last year, I had two pots filled to the brim with pansies.  I made little salad garden containers and loved how they looked, tucked alongside my lettuces.  (My family wouldn't eat them in a salad but that's okay.) Anyway, about a week ago, I realized that there were little purple pansies growing in between all the pavers around our back patio. There is just the tiniest sliver of space there, perhaps wide enough to place a quarter or two, but somehow, they had just enough space to grow and bloom.  Sometimes, I'm guilty of squeezing about fifty cents worth of time with God into my life. A sliver in between the life chaos. I give Him only a small space, yet He gives me favor and allows things to flower in my life that wouldn't be there without His presence. Because He never gives up on His ultimate plan for my good and He never stops pursuing me, even if I haven't planted anything in faith. He will have His way in me.   

I, a mere human girl, took a builder grade, mostly sub-par backyard with nothing pretty but some patchy grass and wild clover, and have been working slowly, steadily, each spring and summer for the last 14 years, to create something with a plan, rhythm and structure.  As my gaze sweeps over the gently bending grass in the setting sun, I wonder at how much more God works steadily in our lives. He shields us, provides for us, protects us, guides us and shapes us into a thing of true beauty and precious worth.  My yard is beautiful in my eyes, not because it's perfect, but because I remember what it looked like a decade ago. I see how far it's come.  I also see the potential it still has.  Yes, I see the weeds and imperfections but because I've worked so closely to bring beauty from it, and I know my ultimate plan, and know the bounds of my energy, it's beautiful to me, just as it is- a work in progress. 

God too, sees our imperfections and sins and the weeds of our life in wrong choices, and sees us as beautiful creations with potential for even more, not because of what we have to offer, but because He knows His plan, and knows His power and what He can do in our lives. Do you get the sweetness of this? My cracked heart soaks this up like healing balm.  He doesn't give up... He pursues... He has a plan... He remembers and I'm in awe of Him.   



Thursday, April 27, 2017

Operation Soul Feeding

 I decided to cheat a little, for today's blog post, and use my recent Instagram photos.  And when I was watermarking them, I realized something. The common theme for them lately seems to be my feet (I'm truly sorry) flowers and food.  Thankfully not all together. 
(But for real.  I'll stop with the feet.  I can't promise the same for the flowers and food though okay?)
 I'm planning on feeding my soul this weekend and I wondered if anyone else out there might need some reminders to do this as well?  I started operation soul feeding this afternoon in fact.  I just wrapped up my last day with my beloved boss before embarking on 30 hours of training to become my husband's office professional next week!  I'm so looking forward to this new adventure with my very best friend, Adrain.  And learning something new.  And pushing myself and my brain as well as my organizational skills. 

But... it's been a rough month with spring break, track, head colds, Easter hosting, all the family birthdays, seeing my dad and all of the issues with that, family dynamics, teenage issues and demands, too many obligations and opening my home to so many, putting all of the above first. (Normally putting others first is the best thing you can do, but I realized that clumping all the above into one month- even one week for much of it- didn't leave any time at all for refreshing and I did not refresh!) 

As women, we all do this to ourselves.  Truthfully, even when we are busy, we can cope as long as we have right priorities and such... and I'm confessing that though I tried, I failed enough that it mattered. Ever been there?  I made zero of the right kind of soul feeding time in April as well, and I landed on the front of this past week, way behind in every way.  So I faced facts this morning and regrouped somewhat. Luckily, 41 years have taught me that simple things can refresh our weary souls in deep ways. I made a list of all the things I am doing today and through the weekend for myself even if it puts something on those around me, because it's okay to do that sometimes. (I forget that with busy teens who like to oppose my suggestions of helping out sometimes.  Ha!) 

Often, doing things for yourself (or not doing something) gives you the energy and desire to then pour out into others, and that's what it's all about. Finding that sweet balance.  Firstly, finding time to pray and course correct my weary heart is always key...before I even stepped out of bed this morning, I spent nearly a half hour praying my heart out about some heavy issues.  I know I'm losing my grip when this verse makes me weep, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matt 11:28

Do you need this reminder too?  Stop and get some instant rest by taking the burdens and placing them where they belong. 

Operation Soul Feeding:

Iced coffee with my favorite almond coconut milk blend
Fresh flowers in every room
Being outside in my garden, or watching the clouds (seriously do this with me)
Memorizing some comforting bible verses (I have one beside my bed)
Giving myself cute manicures and pedicures (OPI bubble bath is my fave)
Lighting my favorite candle nightly (Capri Blue Volcano)
Sipping an icy drink (or glass of wine)
Digging in to my new She Reads Truth bible (I got the gray linen. Eeep!!)
Whipping up fresh salsa and turning the meat over to my man and his BBQ
Sleeping late and not feeling guilty
Wearing my favorite perfume that smells like blood oranges
Holding my friend's new baby and breathing in deeply
Turning my phone off for an entire day (Sunday, I'm coming for ya!)
Not answering text messages right away, or even in a timely manner (personal goal)
Turning on the twinkle lights and watching La La Land with Ava and Life in Pieces with Adrain
Not baking cookies and making sure teenagers get fed constantly, because they can handle that
Working hard at working out (I want sore muscles)
Letting someone else do the dishes (I'm a get it done kind of girl and clean as I go girl)
Not making our bed and feeling no guilt
Really good lotion after I've stepped out of the shower (Coconut is always my favorite)
Eating really healthy
Reading a new magazine (Sunset has a great new issue out that was a delight!)
Wearing a pretty color (I tend to wear black too much)
Trying a new hairstyle- but only if I feel like it

So talk to me.  Are you also weary or overwhelmed dear one?  What soul feeding are you going to start alongside me, today?  Or, do you have experience in this and feel able to offer some words of encouragement to share with those of us who are weary and striving to find our sweet balance again?  


Friday, April 14, 2017

In which I take far too many photos of my flowers...

 Happy Good Friday dear ones. 

I'm sick and need to be resting because our weekend to come is full, so bear with me while I make this rather quick.  I shared in my previous post and video, that I was still trying to decide on my flowers for our Seder dinner and Easter table.  In the end, I came home with tall showy flowers that would never work in a real life dinner setting because you'd never be able to see those across from you, but they smelled amazing and were the exact bouquet my heart leapt at so I brought them home anyway.  We've enjoyed them on our kitchen table the last few days but this morning as I was setting the table, I scooted them over to our side table and that inspired me to quickly tweak a few other things, as it often does.  (grin)

I thought I'd share some photos I snapped while in process, setting the table, and figuring things out.  (My previous post contains links to the nails I've used in the place settings.)

 I wasn't sure how long I wanted to leave the kraft paper menu up... but once I placed the huge jar of flowers on this side table, I had an idea for the weekend...  I grabbed my roll of white paper and a charcoal pencil and quickly scribbled something new for the weekend's festivities... I loved the simplicity of "It is finished." 

I had to share this photo really quickly before I sign off.  My man and I have spent a crazy amount of time at track meets this year and I made him take a photo this week.  His face kind of says it all... we sure do love our kiddo but we are starting to feel like we live in sport stadiums! Ha!  We're gearing up for another rainy out of town meet on Saturday and then anticipating Easter Sunday with more family.  This will be our first official holiday without my Daddy in my home, sitting at my table.  We will be seeing him at the Alzheimer's home but it's such a new stage and if I think about it too much I cry.  Feels so off to me and makes me happy our weekend is to be so busy.  I think God kind of knew that I needed to stay on the go. Isn't He amazing... He always knows just what we need, even we have no clue. 

I hope you all have a lovely holiday and enjoy time with your loved ones. Happy Easter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Every Intention...

Good Afternoon dear ones.  I had every intention of blogging over spring break but we were so busy, I was seldom at home!  I have previously promised you a home storage video tour soon because when I mentioned how I spent the past couple of years downsizing everything we own to our own version of practical minimalism, I got a barrage of requests and inquiries.  Most of them were desperate for practical specifics about how we utilize our current space, also asking me to open cupboards and show what we still keep on hand.  (I think like a minimalist and I can envision a future of even less, but it's been a slow process of gradual transformation on the practical end of shedding the excess, because do actually have STUFF.  Minimalism is relative, because I can show you what it means to me, but it may seem like a house full or empty, based on your personal perspective.)

I am still mentally sorting out that post.  I would like to do a video sweep of our home, showing the closets and cupboards and such, yet I fear that could be a half hour long video at best!  And if I shorten it, I'm not sure that I can show you all that you've been asking to see.  I may just make the video, length ignored.  Yikes!  Or perhaps a two-part video... (Can you see why I haven't created that post yet?) I know so many of you are spring cleaning and want that guidance on living with less.  I want to help because it's so freeing!! It is worth the work of sorting, donating, and organizing.  I want to make sure and address the topics that are important though so fingers crossed I can work out all the details in my head soon and put them into an actual post.

I'm attempting to prepare my heart for Easter, between all of the chaos.  Have you ever noticed how much we heap on our plates during holiday seasons?  Why do we do that? It's like we think we're bionic women who can accomplish the impossible.  I was so tempted to commit and overschedule in a few spaces, and you know what I just did yesterday?  I took my weekly planner, an eraser, and I erased several things from each day!! Sure, it will leave holes where someone was perhaps expecting something of me, yes.  But it may also save my sanity!  I was reminded just this morning, of the age old story of Mary and Martha.  Don't you just adore that God not only understands our busy seasons, but also let that story specifically be included in the bible to encourage and redirect us? I love that He knows about all that must be done, yet He calls us to pause and make time in His presence, our priority.  There are a million things to check off my list by next week, yet one thing is most important and that's seeking Him first.  I'll be honest, I have struggled with this lately.

We had a busy Spring break.  Good, but way busier than I wanted. I saw it going differently in my mind. Sure, I fit in a few projects like repainting a sign with a sweet quote, and found time to visit our local daffodil fields and do a flipping GORGEOUS photoshoot of my baby girl, but it truly didn't go as planned on the whole.  Can anyone else relate?  I saw daily workouts, daily leisurely time spent getting ahead on my bible study, and long evenings of laughter and family time.  Instead, I got a husband working late, one child gone being a camp counselor, and I crash-landed at the end of the week exhausted because we did a lot of fun but constant going, and I was suddenly behind on everything (like laundry and cleaning), especially my bible study, overwhelmed by a mounting to do list, and... what are workouts?
So, thinking I could get ahead and catch up, I filled daily to do lists from top to bottom this week, like a crazy woman. Didn't take me more than a day to realize that was the wrong answer! Ha! Nothing is as freeing as erasing things when that feels unrealistic!  And I think I learned my lesson because summer is fast approaching and both kids may have a job, I'll be working for my honey and we may all be going opposite directions most of the time.  The lesson is this: Open hands with plans and expectations, (I think I gulped on that expectations one) Jesus first daily, heart filled with thanks no matter what, and savoring all the sweetness in whatever moments fall into my lap. Most of the good ones are unplanned for anyway.  When six teens unexpectedly converge in the backyard around the campfire and I have to raid the pantry for anything that can be toasted on a stick... Laughter, music, games, goofing around all make the memory.  Being in the moment, not in perfection, because we all know those two are polar opposites.  Kids get older, things change, and being flexible is the key to enjoying what DOES happen.  Yes?  (Scrambling to make a frantic to do list is stupid.  I probably won't quit doing that as it's hardwired into my DNA, but I might make the lists smaller and quit seeking my stability from them.) A list doesn't make me feel better, but putting Jesus first on the list does. 

Now, y'all know I love Easter and we host a Good Friday Seder dinner every year.  I had a few fun things planned for the table and I wanted to share  before I go so I made you a quick little video this morning on YouTube, here.  (Y'all can find me there under Sasha Brodeur, and if you are so inclined, you can subscribe to me there so you never miss a video.)

 The vintage looking nails are from Amazon, here

I'll be back with some pretty photos of our actual table once I get the details worked out.  I hope you all have a happy and peace-filled Easter.  Put Him first, and your details will fall right into place, even the ones that don't.  Know what I mean? (Grin.)


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Two of my favorite little tips

 It has been a while since I shared some easy life hacks, or simple household tips, and because this is the week of someone's 16th birthday party, I decided I wanted to share something lighthearted and quick with you.  (That way I am sure to not get overly emotional that I'm about to have a sixteen year old son! Whaa!!)  We have a big paintballing extravaganza planned for the weekend and I'm not at all ready for it since we settled my daddy in an Alzheimer's home last week, which pretty much consumed my energy.  I have no idea why, it's not like I was doing exhausting things, but it was a lot of mental exhaustion...  Today I hung a little banner and lights, so I'm getting there!
I am sharing something that I've used for years and I seldom think about it until someone remarks what a great idea it is.  I think we all do little things like that, and how cool would it be if we all shared them? (Feel free to hook me up with your great ideas in comments. I have a feeling everyone will enjoy!) Anyway...  Ever think a box of matches was attractive d├ęcor?  (Me either.) One day it occurred to me that if I were to place matches into a cute little jar or container, I'd have them handy for lighting the candles we use daily and they wouldn't be such an eyesore.

**The glass container I used here was actually a jelly container from Ikea.  Which brings me to my secondary little tip.  If you're attempting to get sticky labels off anything, I have a fool proof solution and even my children now swear by it. Pam or non stick cooking spray.  All you need to do, is peel the sticker off as much as you can, then hit the entire surface of the residue with the non stick spray.  (Olive oil spray and coconut spray do not work quite as well, FYI).  Let it sit for a moment, then take one of those green and yellow scrubbing sponges gently to it (I use the green side).  You may need to add a bit more non stick spray but it should only take a moment for it to all scrub off.  After the residue is gone, you'll be left with an oily mess from the spray so put a little dollop of dish soap on it and use the same scrubber to scrub all over, then rinse in hot water and it should be squeaky clean and shiny.**
The only problem with removing matches from their original ugly box, is that you have nothing to strike them against.  Solution: Cut a piece of the cardboard striker off the box...
 ... and adhere it to the bottom of the match vessel.  (I used a piece of rolled tape, but hot glue or glue dots also work well.)
 Done.  And considerably cuter than a box of matches.  I love setting a jar like this next to a candle that I use frequently because it's both handy and pretty. 

What are some great household tips you like to use to make life easier, prettier, or more efficient?  Share them in comments if you'd like!

And wish me luck on preparing for this weekend's paintball war.  I think I'm just watching and photographing... but I'm so tempted to join in!  I'm a tad afraid of the welts you supposedly get and these boys are pretty intense so I'm not sure I should join the fray. Ha!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Creating new spaces

I've been getting so much feedback asking me to further dive into home organization/downsizing etc, and I've been slowly working on that post and video for you.  (If you have specific questions for me don't hesitate to leave them in comments here, and I'll try and add them in before I publish that other post.)  I had planned to get that finished by today but then over the weekend we flipped our guest room into a home office, very spur-of-the-moment, and I decided that would be more fun to share anyway. 

Don't get me wrong, we so loved having a guest room.  I mean, once a year when it was used, we were in hosting heaven.  I think we always imagined that with so much family living out of town, we'd have more company.  But then nobody in our family ever stayed here so it was down to our yearly friends who pop into town for a night or two.  It was getting harder and harder to justify keeping an entire room for a once a year use.  I squeezed my beloved treadmill in there last fall and have really enjoyed having it inside rather than in the garage where the boys work out.

Over the past month, we made a family decision that tipped the scales in favor of getting rid of the guest room.  We decided that I would be quitting my part time job as an organizer to take an Office professional course with my husband's company and become his new office professional later this spring.  (I could write a post on just that topic if I had time.  I am SO excited to work for him.  He is getting busier and busier, and we feel confident that my help will free him up to see more clients and help our family financially even more than my current job, plus, I'll still be organizing... I'll just be organizing my favorite man's life.  Which I already kind of do anyway. Grin.)

That said, I'll be working from home quite a bit, especially in the summer when kiddos are around.  Also, my sweet hard working husband could use a more private space than the kitchen table for his evening work.  So one evening out of the blue, I suggested we sell the guest bed and buy an actual desk!  Then it hit me almost immediately, that I had already purchased half of a desk from Ikea.  (A while ago, I had purchased one of their narrow drawer consoles and been using it as a side table in the living room at first, then later in our master bedroom.) I quickly looked online and found the desk top, and a matching drawer console.  Adrain liked the idea, and the price, and within the weekend, we'd sold the bed to a friend on facebook and run up to Canada where our nearest Ikea is and quickly created a new home office space. 

I repurposed the giant chalkboard that had lived in our living room the past couple of years, as a calendar, and pulled the navy and gray rug in from the garage.  It worked so perfectly in this room and we spent no other money than the two desk parts!  Adrain is going to add some casters to the bottom of this thrifted chair that I'd made over last year and that was that! 

It was so nice to move our printer in here, as it had been in our master bedroom before for lack of any other spaces.  I tried to make it a bit cute and Adrain sweetly let me since we'll be sharing this workspace.  

Now the one thing I had been really apprehensive about was having a computer out of mama's eyesight.  I'm not going to like that, I'll be honest.  You do the best you can and you put as many passwords and blocks on things but ultimately you have to trust and see.  I have an entire post in my head about social media, phones, technology and such.  In my start of the year vlog I mentioned this topic and many of you responded so I know we're all seeking the best path on this.  I promise to get back to it at some point.  (For now, I just know that I can pop in and see the reflection of the screen in the window behind to check and see what's being worked on, and I've already (secretly) used that several times.) (Ha!)

I've included a little video tour vlog for you at the end of this post, because I really think it's nice to see the real deal.  (You can see that our cord management was kind of a hack job, but we did the best we could with a floating desk.) (I'm the one who wanted that. I just like to be able to look out into the street, and also not face a wall.) I think Ikea must be discontinuing these pieces because we got them both on clearance.  However, they had some really similar options in case you're looking for one. Also, we chose the larger desk top size and are very happy with it.  We debated but for homework, evening work spreading out and such, it's nice to have it.  Also we have a computer with an internal hard drive and wireless printer, and we have loved it for the past couple of years.  Fewer cords and such.  

Let me know if you have any more questions that I didn't answer here or in my video, in the comments section and if you haven't already had a chance to, you may enjoy subscribing to my youtube videos, under my name, Sasha Brodeur.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lent, and a bunch of other stuff...

Happy almost first weekend of March y'all!  I just returned from celebrating my Mama's birthday with pedicures and lunch, then baking brownies for the hungry teens that invade once school and practice is finished.  I'm so thrilled it's March.  It's always a bit crazy around here with all the birthdays and spring holidays but I adore and thrive on! Seder dinner is just around the corner, and you can be sure I'm already thinking ahead about making a pretty spring table for that, as well as the other spring traditions that I kind of let slide last year.  I wasn't feeling it with my daddy's Alzheimer's diagnosis and I gave myself a free pass.  However, my children told me the free pass was over and I needed to get back to making life fun again so that's what I'm all about.  So important to live in the now, even if your heart is grieving what used to be.  All in. 

Last night, we attended an amazing Ash Wednesday service at our new church.  (Have I mentioned that we started attending a sweet little church in late August and the first Sunday, knew we were home? Huge blessings all around with a church that is all about community- something we were craving in our very core.)  I've never been to a Lent service but it was so fun to lay down a card with the thing we were choosing to give up for Lent, then take communion and pick up a card with "God" printed on it.  Laying down something in our life, to push some extra room in, so we can accept more of God, awareness of His presence in our life and an appreciation of this precious season and the great sacrifice we celebrate at Easter.  Oh how I love it!  (We also got the ash crosses on our foreheads with a blessing and I can now check that off my bucket list.)

Lest I keep you hanging, waiting to hear what I gave up, I shall share. I actually spent a week on this subject recently because I wanted to give up whatever it was that God wanted me to give up. So I prayed and asked Him and He made it pretty clear almost immediately... complaining.  (I know right? I was surprised too, especially considering I don't think of myself as an unusually annoying complainer type... then again, does anyone?)  But, as the pre-lent weeks unfolded, I was so clearly aware that I complain (often subtly, sarcastically, or with eye rolls and humor to mask it) all too often, don't seek to see His blessings in situations I'm not enjoying, and let it affect me and seep into my surrounding relationships.  Ack!  So off to give that up these next forty days (and hopefully indefinitely).  Are you giving something up?

I feel like this is another whole post but the post title says, "a bunch of other stuff" and it's kind of related to the letting stuff go for Lent or otherwise theme.

I feel like our life is so different now than it was last fall when I "stopped blogging" (let's all giggle at that for a moment).  (And when I say so different, I mean a little different.  I like to be dramatic for effect, don't you know.)  I just realized that I've been working part-time for an organizing company for the past 3 years and I can't tell you how it's twisted my thinking and ideas on letting go of things.  I see so many homes that aren't homes, they are simply storage units for way too many unused material items... I see older parents holding onto things their adult kids are never going to want, and I see how things trap and hold people hostage in all manner of ways.  It's honestly sickening and I find myself coming home from most organizing jobs feeling a bit desperate to throw something (anything) into a donate bin and refocus!  

Years ago, Adrain and I dreamed about getting a bed and breakfast and running it in our retirement but I think the combination of seeing my parents forfeit the plans they had for later life as they go through this Alzheimer's journey, coupled with my job as an organizer, has taken Adrain and my dreams and pointed them into a whole other direction.  We now dream of simplifying our entire life, buying a small condo, in our bustling little nearby Village neighborhood where we can walk pretty much anywhere we need to go, and maybe share one car.  We dream of  taking off for occasional weekends to do things and make memories while we can.  Shaking off attachment to things  and entirely changing the look of our next stage of life.  We honestly can't wait.  God often laughs at our plans so we're holding it loosely of course, but moving forward into this new direction for the life we crave.

Of course, this has had a dramatic effect on our daily choices.  I've spent the past 3 years downsizing our things little by little.  That's an odd way to phrase it, but true. We're still thinking and dreaming and we constantly ask one another, "would we take this to our condo someday?  Why do we keep it now then?" (Throw pillows will of course go and are of great importance... Wink.) I did the Madame Chic closet challenge and have spent the entire last year going season by season, paring down my clothing to only about 22 items in any given season and it's incredibly FREEING. As in, totally life changing in every way and I so recommend it if you haven't done it. (Jennifer L. Scott is the Author and all three of her books are delights.) I don't have a linen, hall or decor closet stuffed with anything much other than some toys for tiny visitors... what we have is what's out, we love it, and it's seen and used daily. We all have one set of sheets and we wash them and put them right back on.  My kitchen holds all we need for any entertaining event and we even have an empty cupboard. When we started this process, we decided to have zero guilt about it, no matter who gave it to us or when we got it, or what we spent.  It was time for a life change and we flung ourselves into it! I even got our Christmas decorations condensed  into one large bin.  ONE. 

I figure at this rate, by the time kiddos graduate if not long before, we'll be all set and living ultra-minimally.  (And side note, sweet Ava wants us to do this when she's a senior in high school so she can be in on the adventure a little before she goes to college. Um yes. And yes please!)

Anyway, this is truly my heart these days and I daresay my passion.  Part of why I wasn't certain the direction I could take this blog, was that so often you see social media showing more things to purchase, new ideas to incorporate, extra this, better that, new trends here, etc.  I was at war with this idea and needed the space to shed actual things, and find my focus in all of it.  I will still gladly open my home to you as we continue, and share our spaces. We have a few inexpensive home tweaks possibly to come, (can you say rip off that cabinet and hang open shelving?) but I do fear that it could be a bit more boring (or perhaps refreshing?) as we have more blank, breathable walls now where we didn't before, and are working on this daily less is more mindset in literal ways of having less.  I included a few shots from around the house that make me smile since it's been quite a while since I shared any home photos and I'd like to say that I naturally gravitate to soothing, calm neutrals but even more so when the outside forces feel chaotic or stressful like this season we're in with my daddy.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Lent, and letting go, and what I've said here about being so easily trapped by our possessions and excess. As always, you are precious gems and I adore your readership and encouragement and hope this place encourages you as well.